A day in the life of a Tour de France soigneur – from the morning supermarket run to evening massages

Bora–Argon 18's Andrea Feigl describes a typical day at the Tour for a soigneur

Andrea Feigl is one of five soigneurs working for the Bora-Argon 18 team during the Tour de France. She has worked for Bora-Argon 18 for six years, starting out with the junior team, and when a professional team was formed, she jumped at the chance of being involved. Similar to other soigneurs on the team, it is a part-time profession and she usually only works on the three Grand Tours. The rest of the year she works as a physiotherapist in Bavaria.

While massage is a key part of a soigneur’s job, tending to the aching limbs of the riders every day, the role is far more varied, and involved everything from buying food from the local supermarket, packing musettes, transporting bags, manning the feed station, and being at the beck and call of the team. Long hours are at the top of the job description. Here Andrea describes a typical day at the Tour de France.

My alarm goes off at 6.30am each day and my first task of the day is to arrange the food for all 15 of our non-riding staff who are on the road (mechanics, sports directors, photographers, soigneurs). It is usually something like sandwiches, noodles or rice – but it takes a while. We use the same kitchen as our chef who has already started preparing the day’s food for the riders.

Baguettes are delivered every morning, but other than that we need to go and get all of our food from a local supermarket. This is done by one of my colleagues – usually one of the soigneurs who is not going to the feed station.

Andrea Feigl is one of five soigneurs working for Bora-Argon 18 at the Tour de France (Pic: Oliver Gill)

Organising all the staff food takes until 8.30am, and then it’s onto the slightly easier task of preparing the musettes for the riders that will be taken to the feed station. That takes about 30 minutes and once done I can finally get my own breakfast. The riders start filing down into the breakfast room at the same time.

While we just eat whatever the hotel normally provides guests for breakfast, the riders’ breakfast is prepared separately by the team’s cook. They need bigger tables than us, because they have so much food.

This the point when I usually get my first coffee of the day – although if we have had a later night I’ll need one before I do anything in the morning. Coffee is really important to me, without it I struggle to function.

At 10am, we head up to the riders’ rooms to collect their bags. The riders are very good at packing their cases themselves, and because Bora is a German team, they are always on time!

Usually it’s one bag each, but some of them have two. We have a couple of riders – who will remain nameless – that bring their own pillow on Tour. Once one person brings a pillow, everyone else does, so we try and keep it quiet and certainly don’t encourage it! Anyway, these are young guys, I don’t really see why they need to bring their own bedding.

With the bags loaded onto the truck, it heads directly to the next hotel. I am proud to say that since I have been with the team, we have never left a bag behind!

Emanuel Buchmann is the team’s highest placed rider in the general classification (Pic: Sirotti)

It is just myself and fellow soigneur Blache that drive to the feed zone. He can’t stand the slow drive on the course, so I’ll drive that bit. Then afterwards, when we are allowed to go hors course (off-course) Blache takes over and puts his foot down.

Then it’s off to the start in convoy with the team bus. We’ll get there about an hour before the race start and while the riders warm-up and sign on, we prepare all the bottles for the day. We have to buy in the water instead of using the Vittel water [who sponsor the Tour] that is available, because the Vittel bottles are so small – if it is a hot day we might need to prepare 150 bottles, so it would take ages. Sometimes we may need to prepare more bottles when we get to the feed zone.

And once we have finished all the bottles, we head straight off to the feed zone – we need to leave at least 30 minutes before the race itself starts. The drive to the feed zone can be quite daunting as there are a lot of people lining the roads, and in the larger races like the Tour de France, we have to stay on the course all the way to the feed zone.

Once the riders have filed through and we have handed out the musettes, the next focus for us is to get to the finish line before the riders – I like to get there at least 40 minutes before they turn up.

While massage is a key part of the soigneur’s role, it’s a varied position which included everything from the morning supermarket run to packing riders’ musettes (Pic: Oliver Gill)

We will have prepared two things for when the riders finish the night before. First is whatever drink each rider prefers to have as soon as they cross the line. Each rider has their own preference on this, but usually it’s a sugary drink like coke, lemonade or ice-tea. Our job is to know where each rider is as they cross the line and make sure that they get that drink as soon as possible.

The other thing we have previously prepared is a finish bag for each rider – these are a really important if the rider has to go to either doping control or to the podium, so are delayed getting to the bus.

The bags are left in the team cars and handed to the riders as soon as they are directed by the representatives to go for testing. Inside, there is food (usually fruit), fresh clothes, a towel and some water to wash their skin with while they wait.

Otherwise, the riders jump onto the turbo trainers to warm down and then it is straight onto the bus where they have a fresh set of clothes and food. They shower on the bus, get changed and tuck into some food – usually just plain white rice – that the cook has prepared for them earlier in the day.

We try to get going to our hotel as soon as we can, but this can take a while. For example, it took nearly two hours for most of the team buses to get over Mont Ventoux on Wednesday.

I will be in one of the eight team cars following the bus, but a couple of cars will try to get ahead to the hotel to start preparing the massage tables at the hotel, and the drinks and finish bags for the following day.

Sam Bennett had hoped to figure highly in the sprints but crashed heavily on stage one (Pic: Sirotti)

As soon as we get to the hotel we start the massages. Three of us do these, so we have three riders each. Their slots are about 45 minutes each and the riders organise themselves as to who goes when and whether they eat before or afterwards.

Usually I will start the massages around 7.30pm. This means that I finish up around 10pm, and it is only then that I get to have my dinner at the hotel. I like to try and go to bed around 11pm if I can, but sometimes there will be extra tasks that need to be sorted in preparation for the next day.

After dinner, some of the team will have a glass of wine if the hotel bar is open. If I join in, then I definitely need my coffee before anything else the next morning!

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